NEW YORK — It is often difficult to contextualize the talent of a high school baseball player. There are scouting reports, but those are only numbers and some believe they do not tell the full story.
In June, the Mets selected prep third baseman Brett Baty with the 12th overall pick of the MLB Draft. By now, you’ve probably heard that the Mets saw him as the most advanced high school bat on the board. He carries all the hype and excitement of your typical first-round pick, though it is impossible to predict when he will be able to help the big-league club.
At the time Baty was drafted — during the Texas high school postseason — he was hitting .615 with 19 homers, 50 RBI and 63 runs scored in 37 games for Lake Travis High School (Austin, Texas). In 2017-18, he was named the Gatorade Texas Baseball Player of the Year for batting .435 with 12 homers, 27 RBI and 43 runs scored, while slugging .953. He also went 4-0 with a 1.35 ERA, striking out 38 over 33 ⅓ innings pitched.
What better way to gain unique insight on him than by asking those he tormented?
NorthJersey.com and The Record spoke with four Texas high school baseball coaches whose teams faced Baty. Their stories offer a fun way of learning about how much talent the 19-year-old possesses.
Editor’s note: The answers have been lightly edited for length and clarity.
What is the scouting report on Baty?
Kenny Matthews, Anderson High School: Pretty short. He’s really hard to get out. As far as high school hitters go, he’s one of the best I’ve ever seen. We tried pretty much everything. We tried starting him out with off-speed pitches, just giving him off-speed pitches, pitching him backwards, whatever it was. And he was pretty successful with almost anything we gave him. I was fortunate enough to be one of the ones that kept him in the ballpark. But scouting him enough, you see everybody try throwing the kitchen sink at him. He’s a kid that makes adjustments and pretty much consistently hit the ball hard every time he swung the bat.
Larry Vucan, Southlake Carroll: That’s good that you’re asking. Perfect timing right now. I can tell you that my pitching coach just walked up right now. ‘Don’t throw it over the plate,’ essentially, is what it was. …Coaches in the Austin area made it clear that this is going to be one of the best high school hitters you’ve ever seen in your life — not just in Texas, but in the country. And over time. He has the ability to recognize pitches that are outside of the strike zone. His balance is phenomenal. His hand-eye coordination is phenomenal. His size, his strength and his ability to run. And then also his intellect of the game, and then his temperament.
John Carter, Round Rock High School: He’s not very good. Just kidding! He’s the best high school hitter I’ve ever seen. Pure hitter. I was talking to one of the scouts and the scout told me the biggest question is his pull-side power. He hits the ball so well to the opposite field with power, it’s pretty phenomenal to watch. We tried to bust him hard in when we played him and make him chase stuff out of the zone because he does so well driving the ball gap to gap. You want to try to make him pull the baseball. Sometimes we were successful, sometimes we weren’t.
Fernando Lemus, John B. Alexander High School: He’s a great player. He’s a very unique player. One of the best players we saw this year. Obviously has to be top three in my coaching career. It’s kind of intimidating to see him in the dugout across the field from you because he’s one of those imposing players, man.
On the night of the MLB draft, Vucan was at a former player’s house watching the show. That former player, who went to Rice, was also drafted. When Vucan saw Baty on live TV at the draft, he thought, ‘Hey, that’s a good thing. He’s not at practice today.’
Vucan would soon hop on a bus and travel with his players to play Lake Travis in the semifinals. Vucan said Southlake Carroll-Lake Travis was treated as everyone’s championship game, though. The two teams were that good.
To that point, Vucan and his coaches had heard so much about Baty and his one-of-a-kind-talent, but they figured, ‘Yeah, yeah, whatever. He’s 19 years old.’
Vucan: We got there and then we find out he’s pitching against us. Not only did we have to face him as a hitter, but we also had to face him on the mound. He was electric on the mound as well. Everything we heard about him was right. We got down to a crucial moment and decided we’re not going to pitch to him because he has very few holes (in his swing). That was the scouting report: He had zero to very few holes in his swing. We just decided that, any time we face this guy, we’re going to walk him. We had put him on in two different situations, but then we get to gut-check time and we have a one-run lead late. It was either the fifth or sixth inning. He comes up in a key situation. There was one out and he’s a left-handed hitter. We had a righty who was only a sophomore on the mound. He has good stuff, but we had to make a determination.
Are we going to walk him? We had said we’re not going to let him beat us. We made the determination to pitch to him. We get ahead of him and then he fouls off I think seven or eight pitches. He was nasty. He kept flicking pitches close to the strike zone away. That tells you his command of the strike zone, his presence, his ability to manipulate the barrel and fight stuff off and shorten up. That’s just the intellect of the game. He was just going to wait. He just felt like this guy was going to make a mistake.
I was getting worried about it too, and all of the sudden our guy makes a pitch just off the plate, but it was a strike and Baty just puts a charge on it. I mean, hammers it. Squares it up. We had a huge crowd there. The crowd goes nuts thinking he got all of it and our center fielder, who was a speedster, came flying out of nowhere and tracked it down on the warning track, and saved the tying run from scoring from first base. Then obviously Baty would’ve ended up at either second or third base with a double or triple.
That deflated them and then obviously the momentum shifted toward us. We were able to hold on to the lead, we scored some more runs and created some separation. But the guy is a monster. Everything you think he is. I loved his presence, the way he handled adversity. He keeps his lows high and his highs low. He’s beyond his years regarding maturity and his physical gifts are there.